Posts Tagged ‘knighthood’

This is the second in a series of 21 essays on the 21 precepts of the DOKKODO, the final writing of Miyamoto Musashi, completed about a week before his death in 1645. He wrote these precepts as a dying gift to the most talented of his pupils. More than a treatise on swordsmanship, it was intended as a final statement on his life and his philosophy of living as a man, a warrior, and a ronin. In these essays, I approach the DOKKODO as a man, a warrior, and, yes, a ronin, in these early years of the 21st century.

When Musashi wrote these precepts, he wasn’t writing for all of us. He wasn’t writing for you and me. He was writing for one student; Terao Magonojo. He wasn’t writing for shopkeepers who attend a martial arts class twice a week. He was writing for a student who would face death every time he drew his weapon and was depending on that “Way” as his path to enlightenment and salvation.

For Musashi and for the warrior-monk, prowess is part of the path to salvation. If you study a martial art that ends in -do (Aikido, Judo, Karatedo, Hwarang-Do) then you should understand that “-do” means way in the exact same manner that “Dharma” means way. Among the Hindus of the classic age it was recognized that each caste had its own dharma. What was right for the Brahmin might not be right for the Ksatriya.

When Musashi says “the Way” he is referring to this concept. The Way of the Sword. The Way of Walking Alone.

That said, perhaps it is important to ask whether every man has a duty as a warrior to train and study and think upon these things as though he, too, were facing extinction at every moment. Perhaps our shopkeeper needs to keep death in his mind at all times, prepared for the robber who lies in wait when he locks his shop at night. In picking up this slender volume of essays, in reading even once THE BOOK OF FIVE RINGS, we have committed to being students of the Way and students of that psychotic swordsman.

So, we do not seek pleasure for its own sake as our teacher taught us.

Note that Musashi does not say, “Do not seek pleasure.” He says do not seek pleasure “for its own sake.”

As a warrior, even a warrior who spends his time as a shopkeeper or a doctor or a carpenter, it is necessary to put training and fighting ahead of everything else. Those two arenas must occupy all of our time. By fighting, I don’t necessarily mean a physical struggle. Sitting here at this laptop writing these words is fighting. Reading about how better to push my ideas into the world is training.

But if we lift for two hours a day, and train jujitsu for two hours a day and have 40 hour a week jobs, that leaves about 72 hours a week for study and recreation. We have families, children, who are owed far more time than we seem to have to give them.

My point isn’t that our lives are too busy to train. You’re a warrior, training should be a given, sleep and work might be questionable. My point is that we have SO much time for recreation that we need to ask whether we are using that time as we should or whether we are merely killing time by seeking pleasure for its own sake.

Training and constant vigilance require energy. There’s nothing wrong with recharging your batteries by playing guitar and drinking a few beers with your brothers. There’s nothing wrong with eating delicious food. There’s nothing wrong with sitting in a room lit only by the TV watching a show with your fingers in your wife’s hair allowing the day to decompress.

When I get a pizza and sit alone in the back of my truck, eating too many carbs and undoing the work accomplished that morning at the gym, I am indulging in pleasure for the sake of pleasure. When I take my youngest son to Chuck E Cheese and eat an even less healthy pizza (and drink soda) the purpose of our pleasure is bonding over video games and the accumulation of tickets to be exchanged for plunder. It is, in effect, training time for two warriors as we throw skee-balls and gun down aliens.

No form of recreation…provided it doesn’t undo your training…is unhealthy or unnecessary provided it is done always with an eye toward your role as a warrior.

I play Dungeons and Dragons with my sons. We play Minecraft on XBox. There are few activities that I would condemn out of hand as never having any benefit. Smoking, perhaps. The use of dangerous recreational drugs. This precept only condemns those pleasures that claim our time and our strength and benefit no one. And we are surrounded by such pleasing vices.

This, then, becomes the vital point for the ronin in the 21st Century, pleasure and recreation must be seen in the context of furthering your aims as a warrior whether those aims are that you support and defend your family or the perfection of prowess for its own sake. If it does not increase the harmony you feel within and without, it must be cast away no matter how good it feels.

For my own part, I struggle with this precept constantly. I want Pepsi and tacos…that aforementioned pizza. I recently examined my life, the amount of time I wasted when I should be training or fighting and made the decision to live outdoors. I have been able to put more money into my business ideas, have been more diligent about training and nutrition, but best of all, I have rediscovered the pleasure of waking up to the sky after a night spent falling asleep under the stars.

I have an infinite access to pleasures…but none of them exist for their own sake now. It becomes obvious to me now that the pleasure I chase for its own sake is always a vice.

Start where you sit. Consider the comforts you are surrounded by now. How many are essential? How many actually further your development and how many somehow hold you back? How many of the pleasures you indulge in serve no purpose beyond that pleasure? If you stripped away those pleasures that are actually innocent seeming hedonisms, would you have more time and greater resources for the things that truly matter to you more?

If you recognize that you have pleasures that you cannot discard even though they hold you back, you have to examine whether these addictions are such that you willingly step away from the Way of Walking Alone. There will be legions who cannot follow this Dharma, this Do, this Way. Only you know if you are among them.

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The assignment for Day Three was to roam the wide world and find five blogs to follow. That was harder than I thought it would be and this post feels vaguely familiar.

I found blogs that speak to my various goals and passions. There are two blogs about being a bard, two blogs about fighting and more, a blog about paganism, and the blog from a young lady on her way to a laurel and/or pelican.

BardLog The first blog about the bardic arts, I was caught by the fifth installment of his new series about the Deadly Bardic Sins. I look forward to reading the rest. I am not optimistic that I will ever be a popular skald, but I do want to find the skill to enjoy my own playing and the audience response to it. Already, I have learned from this blog.

Protege Life is the work of a young lady in the SCA who has taken on a great task and is kindly blogging about it so we can follow along. Her journey as a protege will be somewhat different than my journey as a squire, but I am excited to see how she experiences her undertaking.

Studying Chivalry is written by an SCA fighter who, like me, wonders to what extent to our notions of chivalry can and should outline our daily lives. he is spending a year in meditation about this topic (certainly a quest worthy of a knight) and I look forward to seeing what he finds.

The Lefthander’s Path concerns magic and Druidism and the esoteric. She is a member of the ADF and has a Celtic outlook where mine is more influenced by the North. She does write some on the Northern Gods and heathenism, and I find her fascinating even when I disagree with her wholeheartedly. It was through her blog that I found the Heathen Round Table. I suspect that Round table will be a huge influence on my writing habits.

Santiago’s Grimoire is another blog written by an SCA fighter. A very accomplished performer and rapier fighter, he has decided to again put on the hard suit and fight heavy. We have a great deal in common including our ages and the fact that we see our fighting as part of a greater path that includes performance and Dragons.

Drake Orenwood is the final bard on this list. I intyend to gather from his writing and his commentary on his own songs and works.

There you have it. The seven blogs I found today when searching my interests. I hope you’ll visit some of them and find something well needed for your path.

The Trossingen Lyre recovered from Trossingen Grave #58.

The Trossingen Lyre

There are two people writing this blog and I am both of them.
The first is Joey “Moonbase” Hall and he is just sorting some things out. You know, the usual stuff; the wars, childhood, love, life, kittens, fatherhood. That stuff.

The second person is Einar Hrafnsson, a 9th Century Dane who has somehow found himself striving for knighthood in the Kingdom of Caid in AS 50. He’s far more interesting than the other guy. In fact, this post is written mostly by him.

I’ve been away from my blog for several months. I got hurt, I got lost, and I didn’t write. I’m doing the Blogging 101 course again to get started and look at me: I’m already days behind that schedule.

Both of the persons writing this blog and living this life are semi-educated pagans, dedicated to the worship of ancestors and Northern Gods. They are both students of runes and the secrets of the bersekr.

I have ambitions. Some of them are difficult to share because they seem unlikely for me. I am embarassed of my failure in advance.

I’m a fifty year old man who has been beat up by the army and other causes and I spend time training and fighting trying to win a belt I should have won before I was thirty.

I do not read music or play any instrument, but I want to write poetry and music and play the lyre and recorder. More than that, I want to be a skald. I want to sing songs and make stories that honor heroes and gods and have people actually enjoy listening to them. That is worth a post on its own, perhaps.

My son and I also do a good deal of woodworking. We craft bows and arrows and intend this summer to build lyres modeled after that found in Trossingen. That, too, is worth its own post.

I am subjecting you good gentles to these thoughts because I want your feedback, because I want your approval, because I need your encouragement, and because I hope to somehow inspire some like minded soul to reach out in like manner. I want you to know me and to wish you knew more, even as I do for those who write the blogs I follow.

I want to find here a community of warrior poets…and those who would want the company of such.  I would seek the counsel of swordsmen and poets and priests. Of magicians and witches and skeptics. Of nobles and peasants and rogues.

I want to find fascinating company and I hope you will be part of that.

There is one sword, one shield, and seven basic blows.

Then, there is the pell.

Every day I carry out the sixty pound base and set it up outside my apartment. Sometimes, the kids come by to watch. They ask if they can hit it. I usually drag out my six-year-old’s boffer gear and let them attack it while I’m resting. Sometimes the six-year-old, Kalev Bonecruncher the Berserk, will announce to the kids he has to train, too.

Earl Syr Knarlic Wulfersson, whose squire I am, has me throwing the blows again and again and again. I have power, some small speed, but he wants the recovery to become muscle memory. Throw the blow, let gravity bring the blade down, pull it back up into the ready position. Again and again and again. Again and again and again. Again and again and again.

Duke Conrad has instructed me some on my shield use. It’s a strapped round shield, and very unpopular. I am told again and again that I should get rid of it, but, for now, Earl Knarlic allows me to use it. Its used much differently from other shields and its only advantages are found in a certain offensive manner. My round shield is useless at mid range. I have to close distance quickly and then use the edge of the shield to push my opponent’s shield or sword away for an instant just long enough to strike.

Start out of range but close the distance quickly and scrape the edge of the pell with the rim of the shield, throw the blow, recover. Again and again and again. Again and again and again. .

Sir Osric is a reactionary fighter. He likes to stay back and launch his attack when an opponent makes a mistake. The round shield’s disadvantages all work in his favor. I step in to close the distance and my helmet rings. I can’t find an angle of approach that defeats this tactic.

He explains that I have to keep his sword busy as I close distance. It takes me a few tries to understand. he explains it again. I don’t have to hit him, I don’t have to move his weapon, I simply have to make it unwise to use the weapon as I move in. I start using an offside blow to the head (number four of the seven basic blows) hopefully requiring my opponent to block with his sword as I close that distance.

And then I stand before the pell again.

Start out of range and throw a distracting blow as I step in to close range, scrape the pell with my shield as I recover my sword and launch another blow without pause and recover. Again and again and again. Again and again and again.

It isn’t the sword I need to master. It isn’t this impossible round shield. I’m not exactly sure what I am trying to Master.

Hopefully, I recognize it when I get there, though.

This was written in response to the Daily Word prompt found here.

Kalev_Bonecruncher

This is the Code of Chivalry as observed in House Hammered Raven.

Honor: Honor First.

You won’t really find it in a dictionary anymore. Its gets discussed by college sophomores reading THE ILIAD for the first time, then it gets dropped as being an impossible philosophical construct. “Is it honorable to steal bread to feed a starving child?” There are a hundred catchy, pretty phrases and no explanation.

Honor is the idea that some ideas and values are so important that we would choose extinction rather than betray those values. Perhaps the value itself is unimportant and what is vital is that we hold it passionately. For one man, honor might demand that he steal before he lets an innocent suffer. For another, honor might demand that he let innocents die before he steals.

Rather than simply bearing witness, Honor is that impulse that demands we act when we see what is Right.  And Honor is the impulse to stand silent as a witness when that is what Right requires.

Prowess: Train constantly. Your strength and your prowess are all that stands between the Right and the Adversary.

Without the virtue of prowess, all other virtues are irrelevant. If a man is unable to strike down an enemy, then it is not mercy that stays his hand but simple weakness. Prowess is the virtue that provides a knight with the means to change the world to suit his own desires.

Without prowess, a man’s desires are meaningless as he cannot act on those desires. Your desire to feed the poor, clothe the naked, establish schools and courts will count for nothing if it is not matched by an ability to stay the hand of those who intend to remove those things.

Honesty: Always speak the truth.

I’ve been told this tenet can be a cruel one that defies mercy. I see that point, but I disagree. There are often truths that are unpleasant to speak, but when you hold your silence, it is not for their sake but for your own. There are truths that cause suffering, when you speak that truth, you must be prepared to stand and share that suffering.

To lie doesn’t avoid an unpleasant truth, it merely delays its uncovering. Perhaps, when it is uncovered, the hearer will be in company less comforting than your own.

Courage: We cannot let fear make decisions for us.

This is not the same as embracing foolhardiness and risk for its own sake. We do not court danger but we cannot let fear move us to act in ways that do not further the cause of Right and Good. We hold our values and our honor so closely that, when the time comes to give our lives in defense of our values and in pursuit of the Good, it will seem as though our lives meant nothing to us.

Mercy: Defend the weak. Protect the innocent.

Just as we prevent the suffering of others through our pursuit of the right, we seek to inflict no more suffering on the wrong-doer than necessary. This is one reason why prowess is the foundation of chivalry and why chivalry can only be pursued by warriors.

Mercy takes many forms, but it is never the simple over looking of errors and mis-deeds.  We confront and defeat the weakness and ignorance of men, but we do not always need to defeat the man himself.

Humility: Praise the worthy deeds of others as you seek to emulate their virtues, but do not boast of your own.

If you are spending your time in the proper company, there will always be others to speak of more highly than yourself, and there will always be others speaking highly of you as they learn the code through watching your actions.

When we boast during sumbel, remember that those supporting you will be affected by your aspirations. Always push the limits of what you can do, but remember that if you push too hard and fail, your burdens fall to another.

Generosity: Gluttony and greed are marks of cowardice.

By taking up arms and taking our place on the wall, we assume responsibility for the lives and well-being of others. What greater generosity is there than that we share our strengths and spend our lives in pursuit of the well-being of all? Give your time, your wealth, your energy to those people whose need hampers their development or the advancement of us all.

The coward fears that he will not have the strength to feed himself again if he shares his meal with the hungry. When we exercise largess and keep an open table, we remind the world through our example that we have the strength and confidence to make our way into the future.

Justice: Seek justice for others without thought of your own gain.

What is good and right is always under assault by weak and ignorant men. Through our words and deeds, we seek to temper the harm done by those who act against the Right. We seek to set two examples. Of course we hope through our actions to inspire others to seek the Right, but we must also conduct ourselves in such a fashion that such men know that acting against the Right in our presence will be met with opposition.

If there are those who imagine that they can act in defiance of what is Good and Right in your presence, then you should reflect on how you have failed.

But justice is a terrifying thing when we truly examine our own lives so we must temper that pursuit of justice with mercy.

Honor: Honor first.

This is the Code of Chivalry as observed in House Hammered Raven.